Prairie Village News 7/25/17

Faron Wahl, Manager

As part of our staff’s fine work re-doing many of our buildings this summer, some of us were walking recently through our hotels, talking about what should be done inside each. Even though a trip back in time wasn’t the reason for the walk-through, it’s about impossible to poke around these period lodges and not pause to contemplate the overnight stays of the guests they hosted.

The rental rooms are rather small, and a July tour makes one absorb just how hot and stuffy those upstairs offerings must have been during the summer months. For a stay on a classic January night, you can only imagine the chill leaking through uninsulated, minimal R-value walls. An overnight visit was likely anything but quiet, as bootsteps on the stairs reverberate easily through all corners of the structure.

But a quaint coziness is evident, nonetheless. A deeper look at the layout of the rooms, and the few amenities provided, makes it apparent the proprietors took seriously their guests’ stay. I’m betting Arne Sorenson, today’s CEO of Marriott International, would be impressed with the overall attempt to care for those traveling customers, adjusted for modern capability by 100 years.

Outside the hotel walls, the differences found uptown would quickly outweigh similarities to today. Down the street at the local mercantile, prices of typical grocery items would amount to pocket change for many folks now. But you can bet a ten-cent can of Campbell’s tomato soup didn’t seem priced one bit low at the time. Same with a seven-cent loaf of bread, or eggs by the dozen at perhaps 34 cents.

Other common prices 100 years ago in 1917 reveal the tremendous retail gap between then and now. A pound of hamburger ran roughly 17 cents, and those fortunate enough to drive a vehicle would have filled up with gas for about 15 cents per gallon.

A purchased home might have set a person’s financial picture back $3,000 or so. Those seeking a larger parcel of land were dealing with a market in the neighborhood of $69 per acre. The letter one might have mailed to inquire about that land could have navigated the postal system for a mere two-cent stamp.

It all sounds rather cheap and easy, but dragging oneself back to reality after pondering such prices makes the picture focus quickly. Virtually every business we represent on our historic Main Street presents a picture of life entirely more challenging than many of us can truly imagine. Making a living and raising a family were tough, and most of the comforts we can’t feature doing without today were not even imagined in 1917.

The bottom line? Walking through buildings and artifacts from roughly 100 years ago is a fun and worthy exercise for all of us. We’ll understand and better appreciate today’s world, and make stronger decisions about the future, if we take the time to learn how it used to be. And at the end of the tour, this all amounts to an exercise in thankfulness, as most of us wouldn’t trade for one minute our position today for an early 20th century life. That’s a healthy perspective worth renewing.

You can still get your tickets to see Sherwin and Pam Linton and the Cotton Kings at our gift shop or by calling 256-3644. Remember that our Opera House is now air-conditioned (speaking of modern day comforts), so you won’t have to sweat it out as you might have to see Mr. Welk back when the structure sat in Oldham. This Saturday evening show on July 29 at 7:00 pm will be a classic country crowd pleaser. And note that our car show, in its 24th year, will follow a week later Sunday, August 6. Plan now to join us for both!